Life is at least as inexplicable as the existence of the inorganic universe. The “Goldilocks Zone” formula convincingly describes where life is possible, but says nothing about the meaning of life. Goldilocks had to deal with three bears. She didn’t have to grapple with the origin of her species or her ultimate destiny. Evolution was good to her. She was born on paper and evolved from being a nasty old lady to a golden-haired little girl whose only concern was to have a bite to eat and take a nap, a simple bed and board matter. She also didn’t have to contend with Alienation and the Human Condition. We do. Some of us more than others.
Depending on which circumstances, contexts, and disciplines are in play, ancient or contemporary, there are many shades of the “human condition.” The darkest and most disturbing of them is “alienation.” The subject of alienation takes up lots of space on shelves 110 to 130-Oooops, I forgot that library books are shrinking. No matter, the human condition shows no sign of improving and there’s infinite space for cyberspeak.
Although the concept of alienation has been somewhat misapplied, e.g., Karl Marx’s application of it to his brand of communism, some of us remember alienation’s original and definitive meaning. It is not simply humankind’s experience in and contemplation of life. Its authentic definition goes deeper than that. It is the separation of an individual from any meaning or reason of life itself. Obviously, alienation’s impact on an individual is an extremely disturbing state of mind. The devastating consensus is that it is incurable. I submit: Only if you allow it to be.
Alienation occurs when we allow our central perception of life to be limited by life as it is rather than life as it should be. It is that passive state of mind that accepts the ‘human condition’ as a given normal, even universal. On a biological scale, that is like accepting pain and high fever as a normal ‘human condition.’ When illness or its threat manifests itself even at the cellular level of life, our immune system instinctively combats the abnormality. The brain does not question the meaning of life, it instinctively goes into action at the cellular level of our body to the best of its ability.
Try to stop thinking while conscious. You’ll find that it is impossible to do so. When we are conscious, the ‘sound’ of our silent thoughts is continuous. When we are in a dreamless sleep, our neurological system continues to hum within us without the involuntary, nonstop language associated with consciousness, except when it is somewhat roused by dreams.
Like a magnificent toggle switch, the brain digitally computes; the mind conceptually creates; the brain is automated; the mind is visionary; the brain is anonymous; the mind is unique. The brain does what it must do to keep us alive. The mind is creative, visionary, and unique: It does what it must do to keep us human. Just as ‘cold’ is no more than the absence of heat, the dark human condition is no more than the lack of love. A loveless life is not the result of alienation. Rather, it is its cause. Without the love of something or someone, life is the meaningless nightmare that existentialists claim it is. An existentialist’s brain may be intellectually active, but his mind is dormant. His world is in perpetual twilight.
The cure for alienation is located in one’s mind. What can be more convenient! We are available to ourselves 24/7. We don’t need to visit gurus in Kathmandu or Manhattan and talk to strangers who barely know us. Instead, we need only to get in touch with our minds: They’re easy to reach, and very private. Are there unseen barriers to the making of connections? Perhaps. But breaking through them is part of the process of fulfilling our innate capacity for love, the major portal to a meaningful life.
If alienation persists in a presumably romantic relationship, then one or both members of the relationship is/are not in love. Alert! Love without commitment is a contradiction in terms. Love cannot exist without commitment; indeed, commitment is an integral part of love. However-and this cannot be overstressed-if commitment is equated with sacrifice in any relationship, the relationship is not based on love. Subtly but distinctly, commitment and sacrifice are separate entities. Mutual commitment is not sacrifice. It is a privilege.
The defining factor of the arts is that they are timeless. Like them, love is an art. It is also timeless if we live life as it should be. Nothing is sadder than a partner whose effort to keep the music playing is ignored or rebuked by the disillusioned other. All relationships require uninterrupted renewal. Societal alienation pales when compared to the tragic circumstance of an individual who still loves the other but whose love is no longer requited. It rivals the pain experienced by those who never find a partner with whom to share a love they can only imagine. Sexual promiscuity is a poor substitute for love and diminishes the possibility of ever experiencing timeless love, the ultimate meaning of life. Life without some form of love is fertile ground for alienation.
[Note: Although philosophy is the ultimate discipline for the contemplation of alienation, the arts are alienation’s most expressive voice. Nowhere is alienation better expressed than on the stage, running a gamut of styles from Theater of the Absurd (wherein form and content are chaotic), to Existentialism (wherein form is perfectly lucid but the content expounds the irrationality of life itself.]
The tragic flaw of existentialism is its vision of life as ‘meaningless.’ We might ask, “Meaningless, compared to what?” Why must everything be described in the context of the universe, of infinity, and Quantum Confusion! Life may have a ‘meaning,’ but it really doesn’t need to have one other than love. There’s meaning enough in the smile of a newborn child, in the inspiration of the arts, in the exquisite emotion of timeless love.
The next time you look up to the stars, whisper, “I, too, am a star.”